Thiamine and Riboflavin: A Closer Look on Migraine Impact

Take a closer look at two B vitamins and how they may play a key role in migraine treatment.

Researchers recently examined the results of a 1999-2004 research study to identify if there is a link between thiamine and riboflavin intake and the frequency of severe headaches or migraine attacks. The earlier study collected data from thousands of adults in the U.S., including information on their headache history and dietary intake of thiamine and riboflavin. For this new cross-sectional study, researchers charted headache and migraine frequency alongside thiamine and riboflavin intake for over 13,000 of the original survey participants. The purpose of the cross-sectional study was to find out if taking thiamine and riboflavin may influence how often migraine patients get headaches or experience migraine attacks.

Read more below to learn about the study’s findings and how these two vitamins may play a role in treating migraine.

The Effects of Thiamine and Riboflavin on Migraine

The study examined 13,439 subjects. Some characteristics of these subjects include experiencing severe headaches in the past three months and having significantly lower daily intakes of thiamine and riboflavin. Other characteristics, such as the sex of the subjects, were also factored in.

The results of the study found that there is a connection between thiamine and migraine. Those who experienced severe headaches had a lower intake of thiamine. The higher the intake of thiamine, the lower the frequency and/or severity of headaches and migraine attacks. This was especially true for women. Women with severe headache or migraine were about double that of men in the subject pool.

Riboflavin was found not to have an association with headaches. This is likely because of the limitations of this study, particularly with recall bias and the fact that the study was from over 15 years ago.

“More updated data is needed,” says Dr. Chia-Chun Chiang, Senior Associate Consultant and Assistant Professor of Neurology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. “There certainly needs to be more studies on the association, not only between riboflavin and headache, but also on thiamine and headache to confirm the study results [from 15 years ago].”

The study did however provide enough information to determine the link between thiamine intake and headache frequency. We spoke to Dr. Chiang, also a member of the Foundation’s Editorial Board, to learn how people living with migraine can act on the study’s findings.

Treatment Options Including Thiamine and Riboflavin

There is no official confirmation that thiamine and riboflavin effectively treat migraine. “Currently, in the medical field, we recommend thiamine intake for patients with thiamine deficiency,” says Dr. Chiang. “But we don’t recommend routine thiamine supplementation or intake. More studies are needed before we make official recommendations on taking thiamine for the purpose of migraine.”

If you are considering taking thiamine and riboflavin, talk with your doctor and work with them on your treatment plan. Keep in mind that there are other ways to manage symptoms and prepare for attacks. Lifestyle is one of them.

“A healthy lifestyle, in general, helps with migraine and reduces migraine triggers,” says Dr. Chiang. “We always recommend our patients ‘SEEDS’ for the success of headache.”

SEEDS is the mnemonic for Sleep, Exercise, Eat, Diary, and Stress:

  • Maintain good sleep hygiene by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day.
  • Exercise is also recommended. The American Migraine Foundation (AMF) recommends 30 to 50 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity three to five days a week.
  • Be sure to keep a regular meal schedule and get proper nutrients in.
  • Keep a diary of your migraine and headache symptoms.
  • Keep stress levels low.

Thiamine and riboflavin have been found to lower the severity and frequency of headaches and migraine attacks. While it is not confirmed that these two vitamins can treat migraine, evidence suggests they could help. Speak with your doctor about thiamine and riboflavin. Work out a plan with them that includes one or both of these vitamins, and use the SEEDS method to manage your symptoms and attacks effectively.

To read the full study, click here.

The American Migraine Foundation is committed to improving the lives of those living with this debilitating disease. For more of the latest news and information on migraine, visit the AMF Resource Library. For help finding a healthcare provider, check out our Find a Doctor tool. Together, we are as relentless as migraine.

 

Reviewed for accuracy by the American Migraine Foundation’s subject matter experts, headache specialists and medical advisers with deep knowledge and training in headache medicine. Click here to read about our editorial board members.